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Saturday, June 5, 2004
A Coming Shake-Up at State?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

Regardless of the outcome in November, the odds are good that there will be significant changes at State: Armitage Thinks Days Numbered as No. 2 U.S. Diplomat

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Friday he could soon leave office, a remark sure to fuel speculation the No. 2 U.S. diplomat and his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, will not serve another term.

“I suspect my days of public service, given my age, are just about over,” the 59-year-old diplomat said in an interview.

Many political analysts believe Powell and Armitage do not want to stay on if President Bush wins re-election. Media reports periodically suggest the two, who resisted the administration’s push to invade Iraq more than other senior officials, will leave their posts together next year.

However, it should be noted, this is a hardly unusual despite the spin that the reason that Powell will leave is because he can finally get out from under Bush’s thumb with honor.

But, it is not the norm for a President to have the same SecState for two terms-Reagan had 2 (Haig and Schultz) as did Clinton (Christopher and Albright)—heck, 41 had two in his one term (Baker and Eagleburger) and, gee whiz, Washington had three (Jefferson, Randolph and Pickering).

Now, granted, some have served for lengthy periods: Madison (1801-1809), Cordell Hull (1933-1944), and Dean Rusk (1961-1969)-however, the norm is for far shorter. A quick scan of the list suggests that the average over time is under four years (I am too lazy to run the numbers).

Now, while one could make the argument that at a time of war Secretaries tend to stay longer (e.g., Hull and Rusk), the nature of the war on terror hardly requires that Powell stays (and, for that matter, many don’t even see us as at war).

No, many will seek to cast a Powell exit (assuming Bush is re-elected) as some criticism of the President, however, that ignores the historical trends and the fact that being Secretary of State is a lot of work, and that after four years, one is likely ready to move on to other things (that are both less work, and pay better).

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1 Comment

  1. Hasn’t Powell been telling anyone who’ll listen for at least the past year-and possibly more-that he probably wouldn’t stick around for a second term? Or did I just hallucinate that?

    Methinks some journalists need to go and play with Lexis-Nexis for a few minutes…

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Saturday, June 5, 2004 @ 7:39 pm

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